A Return to Old City Cemetery

Before stopping by Spring Hill my first destination in Lynchburg last weekend was Old City Cemetery. Longtime readers here probably recall some of my previous excursions to OCC, which I consider to be one of Virginia’s loveliest burial grounds.


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October at Lynchburg’s Spring Hill Cemetery

Yesterday I revisited Lynchburg’s Old City Cemetery and stopped by nearby Spring Hill Cemetery. Established in 1855, Spring Hill was the city’s first burial ground designed in the rural cemetery style. Celebrated landscape architect John Nottman, responsible for the design of Richmond’s Hollywood Cemetery, plotted Spring Hill’s beautiful grounds. You’ll notice in the photos below the many examples of Victorian symbolism throughout the tombstones.I wish I’d had more time to explore, but I was running out of daylight and already exhausted from my first haunting. (My fatigue is obvious in these photos.)

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Agnes and Lizzie Langley: The Madams of Buzzard’s Roost

It amuses me that Lynchburg, Virginia is largely associated (in reputation) in some way, shape, or form with Jerry Falwell’s conservative Christian influence, but in 1804 the city was described by one evangelist as “the seat of Satan’s Kingdom.”

The two business-savvy women buried in the plot here at Old City Cemetery lived and worked in one of  Lynchburg’s seediest (and probably also one of the most interesting) neighborhoods: Buzzard’s Roost.

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Tombstone Tuesday – Eliza Jones Morris

Eliza Jones Morris’ grave marker still stands in Lynchburg’s Old City Cemetery, although over the decades it has seen its share of wear and tear. It appears as though it has been repaired in several places and the tablet had possibly cracked all the way through the middle at some point, which would have resulted in part of the marker spending some time on the ground.

Eliza was born in 1868, a daughter of Austin and Mollie Jones. Looking at census and Old City Cemetery’s burial records gives us some background information on this individual. Sometimes records conflict and it’s difficult to determine which one is more accurate. The burial records give a birth year of 1866, but the census lists Eliza as being born in 1868.  According to the 1900 census, Eliza and  her husband, William Henry Morris, were living with Eliza’s parents at 1301 Taylor Street along with two of her brothers and three of her sisters. The age range of Eliza’s siblings in the house then was from 10 to 25. Austin was a shoemaker and Eliza’s husband, who went by the name of Henry, was a day laborer. Everyone listed in the residence was classified as “black” and we’ll see another example of how census records can have discrepancies soon.

By the time the 1910 census was taken, only Henry, Eliza, and an adopted daughter, Emma Morris (18), were living together at 1311 Taylor Street. All of them were classified as “mulatto” (mixed) instead of African-American. This was most likely due to an error on the census worker’s part. No other records indicate that Eliza was of mixed heritage. What’s also puzzling is that on the census report for the same year at 1404 Polk Street, Henry, Eliza, and Emma are shown in the household with Austin, Mollie, and Eliza’s siblings. Could they have accidentally been double-counted?

Eliza died on October 11, 1918 of lobar pneumonia at her residence, 1311 Taylor Street in Lynchburg. Henry died in 1923 from the same illness at a house on Floyd Street. I was unable to find out what became of Emma or how she came to be adopted.

I was able to get a street-view of the house at 1311 Taylor Street where the family lived and where Eliza passed away. Of course, it probably looked much different then.

Old City Cemetery Burial Records

Old City Cemetery’s Scatter Garden for Pets

This is the statue of St. Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of animals and ecology which stands amidst the ashes of a number of pets in a special section of Lynchburg’s Old City Cemetery. From the hill where the scatter garden is located one has a lovely view of the pond and a dovecote. It’s a very serene spot  to be located so close to the downtown area.
view of the pond

Our trip to OCC was last minute, so I wasn’t even aware of the Scatter Garden for the Ashes of Beloved Animals but upon finding it I was especially moved. People who don’t live with animals probably roll their eyes at the notion of planning special send-offs for pets or for doing more than flushing the proverbial goldfish down the toilet, but for many people a pet is another member of the family. When such a family member passes away, the grieving process begins and for many people this process includes doing something to preserve and honor the memory of the dead.

While visiting the main part of the cemetery, an orange cat decided to give us the guided tour. It seems like at least of half of the cemeteries that I visit have cats roaming the grounds. Our guide reminded me of Ginger, my 20-year-old cat that died earlier in the year.

I’m not sure if this particular cat has a name. There is a black and white cat named Arthur that’s known as the cemetery’s resident cat.

Update-Feb. 2015: I’m reblogging this entry in light of the recent loss of my cat, B. She had an undiagnosed and untreatable heart condition that manifested following a freed blood clot. Requiescat In Pace, old friend.

 I love cats because I enjoy my home; and little by little, they become its visible soul. -Jean Cocteau

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Tablet Tombstone Shapes of the 18th and 19th Centuries

You can almost identify the general age of a cemetery by the types and styles of the grave markers found on its grounds. On a stroll through any old cemetery you might see many variations of the three-lobed style of tombstone that was widely used during the 18th century and early 19th century. The shape of a tripartite marker mimics the outline of the human body. You can see which parts of the stone represent the head, shoulders, and neck. The arches symbolize a path that lead to Heaven.
Headstones and footstones also resembled a bed, which is a symbol of eternal sleep. To the right is a footstone that is shaped identical to the headstone, only smaller. (Unless otherwise captioned, these photos are from Raleigh’s City Cemetery.)

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Diana F+ Cemetery Pictures from the Past

Before I joined Find a Grave, my cemetery photos were more of landscapes rather than focused on individual markers. I found some older photos that I took around 2009 with a Diana F+ camera, back before the popularity of Instagram and Hipstamatic. I’m going on memory as to where these pictures were taken, so if you see a picture that doesn’t look like it came from the cemetery I listed, please let me know.

These were taken in Cedars Cemetery in Milton, NC.

These are from Lynchburg, VA’s historic Old City Cemetery. (You should really visit this cemetery if you’re in the area.)

These are from Green Hill Cemetery in Luray, Virginia. I had taken an additional roll of photos while here but when changing the film in the cemetery, I exposed it to light. You’ve gotta hate it when that happens.

Elizabeth Buracker Wheat